Global App Install Fraud By Region and Country

Executive Summary

Mobile app install ads are a huge global business.

Mobile marketers spent $5.5 billion on them in 2016 in the United States alone, and will probably spend another $6.2 billion on attracting new mobile customers in 2017. In 2015, before brand advertising jumped significantly, mobile app install ads accounted for a quarter of all mobile ads by some measures.

Global statistics are harder to come by, but traditionally, the U.S. has accounted for about a third to a half of mobile app install ad spend, a proportion that is decreasing over time as Asia (especially China) continues to grow.

Global app install spend is currently north of $10 billion, therefore, and likely to be around $15 billion in 2017.

The only problem?

Vast revenues like this attract vast numbers of fraudsters. (Want to know how? Read this detailed report.) And while TUNE’s fraud prevention measures have been in place for some time, mobile marketing criminals continue to try to deliver fraudulent app installs, take credit for others’ legitimate installs, and generally make a dishonest buck wherever possible.

That costs mobile marketers dearly: $100 million to $350 million, by various reports.

But based on what thousands of marketers with apps in over 3.5 billion devices globally are seeing, global app install fraud rates are now approaching 8%. Do the math, even at a $10 billion worldwide industry, and app install fraud could easily be costing mobile marketers double that.

This is the first-ever global report with specific details on app install fraud rates by region and by country. It is based on an analysis of 627 million installs driven by 705 ad networks, measured from January 1 to July 31, 2017.

APAC: Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific is the most fraud-ridden mobile market on the planet, with a higher percentage of fraud than any other region. Fifty-seven ad networks have more than 20% app install fraud in APAC, and 18 are over 50%. Shockingly, nine ad networks are over 75% fraud in this region, at least as far as TUNE clients are seeing.

APAC average: 11.46%1
Global average 7.8%

1Note: data sample size is 273 million app installs.

Most countries in APAC suffer from low in-app purchase rates and ad supported monetization is the way to go for most publishers to capitalize on the large population base. On the other hand the region enjoys a vibrant ad-tech ecosystem, with immense funds being pumped into early stage startups translating into huge spends on user acquisition campaigns. This combination of easy supply and robust demand has created the perfect storm for fraudulent practices to creep into the ecosystem.
Ashwiny Thapliyal, Head of Sales India and Southeast Asia, TUNE

EMEA: Europe, Middle East, and Africa

EMEA has lower fraud, on average, than many other regions. While Italy, Spain, and Belgium spike up to the 8% global average, most countries are fairly low in app install fraud. Portugal, Finland, and the Ukraine are very low, as is Russia.

Two important things to note:

First: the richer a country is, the more likely it is to be targeted by fraud.

Secondly, for fraudsters to achieve economies of scale, they tend to target larger, more populous countries or countries that share a common language with large populations elsewhere. This partly explains why countries that house the organizations behind much of online fraud tend to show relatively small percentages of it at home. (Another reason: it’s harder to prosecute cyber-criminals who operate outside your country.)

EMEA average: 4.58%
Global average: 7.8%


Europe average: 4.72%
EMEA average: 4.58%

Middle East

Middle East average: 5.05%
EMEA average: 4.58%


Africa average: 1.41%2
EMEA average 4.58%


2Note: starred countries had less than 50,000 mobile app installs, and so are not statistically significant. Data size is 133.7 million installs.

Click fraud (hijacking of organic or paid installs) has exploded to become the largest category of fraud. This explosive growth results from three components: high install volumes, simple fraud mechanisms, and challenges in detecting with outdated fraud methodologies. There is an arms race in the evolution of fraud tools to eliminate the latest threats.
Jim Tommaney, Enterprise Data Architect, TUNE

LATAM: Latin America and South America

Latin America and South America are regions where we see less app install activity than many others.

But there is significant activity in some of the nations, including Guatemala, which has an exceptionally high fraud rate: one of the highest in the world, at almost 28%. That’s on over 500,000 app installs, a significant sample size. Most other nations, however — excepting Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina — have much less fraud.

LATAM average: 5.68%3
Global average: 7.8%

3Note: starred countries had less than 50,000 mobile app installs, and so are not statistically significant. Data sample size is 47.9 million installs. Mexico is in LATAM and North America because it is frequently included with both.

Global ad fraud has reached a level where marketers must own the responsibility to identify and take action on ad fraud to effectively grow their business. It’s not acceptable to have 8% of your app installs – and marketing spend – fraudulent. When marketing results don’t meet objectives, marketers should start the conversation with their ad partners and restore the trust required for sustainable growth.
Jennifer Wong, VP of Marketing, TUNE

NORAM: North America

North America is, on average, kind to mobile marketers. While we know of customers who were targeted by fraudsters and experienced extremely high levels of fraud — up to 50% in some cases before taking advantage of TUNE’s anti-fraud solution — on average, TUNE customers are seeing low levels of fraud, globally speaking.

NORAM average: 5.12%4
Global average: 7.8%

4Note: data sample size is 171.8 million mobile app installs. Mexico is in LATAM and North America because it is frequently included with both.

While overall levels are low, globally speaking, this does not necessarily correlate to an individual company’s experience. One major TUNE client in particular sees attempted fraud rates approaching 50% because they are in a very competitive and very lucrative industry.

That means the more popular you are, the harder you have to fight fraud;

One thing we’ve observed is that growth and success attracts the dark side – the better you do in expanding your reach, the more the bad actors want to get a slice of it. That means you need to work harder to fight for quality.
Dan Koch, Chief Technology Officer, TUNE

A note on the data

The insights in this report are drawn from a sample of app installs that TUNE measures and validates for customers. The sample size is 627 million installs driven by 705 ad networks, and they were measured from January 1 to July 31, 2017.
All data contained in this report is aggregated and anonymous. References are provided for informational purposes only and TUNE makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness or timeliness, and disclaims any liability or responsibility to any third parties based on the use of this report. All opinions reflect judgments made as of the original date of publication.


Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.